Sudan’s Vice President and Minister of Defense, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemetti,” visited Ethiopia on January 22 and 23, where he met with President Abiy Ahmed and Defense Minister Abraham Belay.
Dagalo’s visit to Ethiopia represents an important element in the delicate bilateral relationship between the two countries, which has long been characterized by increasing tensions. The primary purpose of the visit of the vice president of the Sovereign Council of Transition of Sudan in Addis Ababa was to discuss the dangerous tensions arising in the disputed area of al-Fashaga, where Sudan has recently wanted to reimpose its authority through the massive influx of its military.
Dagalo’s visit to Ethiopia was accorded honours and ceremonies that reveal the interest of the Ethiopian government in starting a constructive dialogue with Sudan on the various issues that have divided the two countries in recent months, including that relating to the development of the GERD dam.
Ethiopia’s political and military leadership is well aware that Dagalo represents not only the second most important position in the State, but also that of commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a powerful paramilitary unit characterized by huge political and economic interests. In this way, General Dagalo represents an important interlocutor for the interests of Ethiopia, which considers him – not wrongly – as one of the main architects of the ongoing crisis between the two countries.
Dagalo’s visit to Addis Ababa included a meeting with the Minister of Defense, Abraham Belay, and then a meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the headquarters of the General Staff of the armed forces, in the presence of the Chief of Staff, General Berhanu Jula, and the Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia, Jamal Al-Sheikh.
At the same time, protests continue unabated in Sudan and new casualties are reported during clashes between protesters and security forces. On January 21 the president of the Sovereign Council of Transition, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, appointed 15 ministers of the new government (with the exception of those of the Interior and Defense), while the position of prime minister is still vacant, in an attempt by the military authorities to find a replacement for the resigning Abdalla Hamdok. The ministers appointed by General Al-Burhan are almost all the expression of choices previously made by Abdalla Hamdok, and are indicated as technical and independent, in accordance also with the commitment made by the Sovereign Council of Transition with a delegation from the United States that visited in recent days, which had asked the military authorities to respect the original project of a selection of independent ministers.
The United Nations, however, continues to offer itself as a mediator between the different components of Sudanese politics, while several members of the Sudanese judiciary have openly condemned the violence against protesters, through an unprecedented statement in the recent history of the country.
Several members of the popular protest gathered on January 22 in front of the UN representation in Khartoum, chanting slogans against the role of the UN and asking the Special Representative Volker Perthes to leave the country. The proposal of the UN, for a mediation built on the acceptance by the civil political organizations of a modest role for the armed forces, has met the opposition of the most intransigent bangs of the protest movement, which does not intend to accept any compromise with the military and considers the UN action invasive and inappropriate.
At the same time, the leadership of the military apparatus does not seem to consider any hypothesis of an exit from the political scene or a reduction of their role, as demonstrated by the news released on January 19 through the spokesman of the Sovereign Council of Transition, which announced that it had given President Al-Burhan the task of starting preparations for the political elections.